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First steps of wedding planning are the hardest – a complete guide from start to finish

See what happens after you get engaged

wedding planning first steps
Nichola Murphy
Deputy Lifestyle Editor
February 9, 2023
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If you are newly engaged then you are likely very eager to commence the wedding planning. But where do you start?

Owner of the UKAWP and Business Consultant Bernadette Chapman has warned against jumping in head first without a plan in place – that's where costly mistakes happen. Enjoy the engagement and consider things like your time frame, your budget and if you want a wedding planner. Take a look at Bernadette's expert guide to wedding planning from the very first week…

WATCH: What would you do if you received an engagement ring you hated?

What should I do in the first week of getting engaged?

It's so important to take some time out to enjoy the engagement glow. Here are some things you might want to do in the first week as a newly-engaged couple:

1. Call family and close friends to tell them you are engaged; don’t let them find out from social media. Don’t forget to include your proposal story and especially any magical moments.

2. Book a manicure or paint your nails at home to ensure your hands are looking their best when flashing your ring in person or indeed the much-requested ring selfie!

3. Announce your engagement on social media and include a shot of the ring.

4. Get ring insurance if you don’t have it already.

5. Consider setting up an email specifically for wedding-related tasks. This will make it easier to stay on top of all quotes and communications.

In between celebratory events with friends and family, this is a great time to sit down with your fiancé to discuss wedding expectations and potential compromises. One of you might want a micro wedding in a faraway destination with 10 guests on a gorgeous sandy beach while the other might want a traditional, countryside wedding of 100.

LOOK: Wedding costs are up 90% amid the cost of living crisis – here's how to plan

Try to approach all this without family interference, it's important you understand what you both want individually so you can show a united front with family opinions occur (which they will).

How much money should we set aside for a wedding?

wedding budget savings© Photo: iStock

Your wedding budget is decided by you

The most important thing to do first is to create your budget. It's not so much how much the average wedding costs, but more what figure are you comfortable spending on your wedding?

No one enjoys talking about money, but you need to set the goalposts right from the start to avoid problems down the line. Knowing how much you're working with will help you set your priorities for spending. I feel no one should start their married life by being in debt.

So what is that amount to you? Open up the communication with your fiancé and family so everyone is clear about what budget you are working to.

Here are some questions you could ask yourself: 

1. What money have you saved so far?

2. What are you planning to save leading up to the wedding?

3. What monetary contributions are family giving (if any)?

What are the biggest priorities when planning a wedding? 

bride and groom wedding ceremony

Flowers, drinks and everything in between need to be organised according to priority

Once you have created your budget you need to agree on a few more details before you commence the wedding planning. These are:

1. Approximate guest list 

2. Geographical location 

3. Wedding date

Produce your budget on a spreadsheet and break the wedding down into categories, including the ceremony, drink reception, wedding breakfast and evening. Then further break this down into subcategories for flowers, stationery, entertainment etc. 

This is far more effective than having a total figure you’re working from. You don't want to blow your budget on a venue and then realise you have no more money to feed your guests. If you are struggling, some wedding planners can help create the budget for you so you have realistic expectations from the outset.

The first item to source and confirm is your venue – check availability then shortlist your favourites to go and visit. When walking around, imagine it’s your wedding day. Does it feel special? Will it create the ambience you desire? Does it have the relevant spaces you need?

Pay attention to the upkeep of the exterior and interior. Is it well-maintained or looking a little worn?

FIND OUT: 9 sneaky wedding venue costs that can easily derail your budget

Next up is booking your caterer if this isn't already included. This is your second biggest expense for your wedding so make sure you choose someone that fits within your budget. 

Don’t forget to ask them to quote for the below to ensure nothing is omitted when comparing quotes:

  • Canapés
  • Wedding breakfast
  • Evening food
  • Staff
  • Equipment
  • Table settings

In my opinion, choosing the right wedding photographer is so important as they capture the day and provide ever-lasting memories. What photography style do you feel most drawn to? Do you want pure traditional shots or something more contemporary? 

This may seem a strange thing to put down but you will be working so closely with your photographer that it's important you like each other. You need to be totally relaxed and happy to take instructions instead of thinking, 'I wish they’d go away!' This connection is what makes for great photographs on the wedding day.

Then think about all remaining suppliers and list them in terms of priority – the list will be different for every couple. Diligently start researching and booking each supplier category and prioritise the 'must haves' and leave the 'nice to have' until you know whether there is the budget.

These supplies include:

  • Bar company
  • Cake
  • Caterer
  • Crèche
  • Décor
  • Entertainment
  • Favours
  • Flowers
  • Hair and makeup
  • Photographer
  • Production/lighting
  • Stationery
  • Transport
  • Venue
  • Videographer

When should you hire a wedding planner?

wedding calendar© Photo: iStock

Some wedding planners can't be hired until 6 months before the big day

This depends on the service needed. If you want someone who will help you plan the wedding from start to finish then hire a planner ASAP. In the past, I've been hired before the couple's family have been told they were engaged! 

If you need partial planning or support on the day then many planners won't accept a booking more than six months in advance, so it's worth researching and checking.

NOW SEE: Should I hire a wedding planner? The real costs revealed

What are the biggest mistakes couples often make in the early stages of wedding planning?

Without a doubt, the biggest mistake is rushing into the planning and hiring of your venue or suppliers. Oftentimes this ends up being a costly mistake with choosing people out of their budget range or signing contracts for venues that do not suit their needs.

What are your top tips for those having a very short engagement?

Are you asking yourself: How long does it take to plan a wedding? Many couples plan to leave around 18 months between their engagement and wedding, but short lead-time weddings have become very popular over the last couple of years. 

My biggest tip is to ask a planner to help you as they will have a little black book of top suppliers to use saving much-needed time.

But regardless, this is also where you need to be decisive; there is no time to go back and forth with your indecisions. Without time on your side you may need to go with plan B when booking the details of your big day. Flexibility is key here.

Don't be afraid to ask for help even if you don't have a wedding planner. Can someone help co-plan the wedding with you? Do you have talented friends and family that can make the cake (or source a supermarket one!) and provide transport etc.?

Good luck and happy planning!

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